|© EU Mission |
(L-to-R) Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, Dipu Moni; EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht; and ILO Director-General Guy Ryder
The compact – reached after high-level discussions initiated by the European Union – aims to avert another tragedy like the Rana Plaza factory collapse in April, in which 1,129 garment workers died.
It commits all the parties concerned to a number of time-bound actions, including reforming the Bangladesh Labour Law to strengthening workers’ rights; improving building and fire safety by June 2014 and recruiting 200 additional inspectors by the end of 2013.
In a joint statement issued after the agreement was reached, the Bangladesh government and the EU welcomed and encouraged “the continued efforts of the ILO to bring together the various relevant stakeholders to work together to address the challenges of labour standards and factory safety in Bangladesh.”
Urgent law reformThe statement also stressed the need for reform and implementation of a new Bangladesh Labour Law in conformity with International Labour Standards. In opening remarks, made before the compact was announced, the ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, said a new, amended labour law in Bangladesh needed to be passed quickly to avert another tragedy.
ILO Director General's remarks at EU "Staying Engaged" meeting for Bangladesh
“It is important to underline that it’s a matter of fundamental importance to the action that we all need to participate in. The labour law needs to be brought into line with ILO Standards relating to fundamental rights at work, freedom of association and collective bargaining.
“There should be no doubt about the action required and we very much hope that the legislation will meet these needs. We hope it will be in place sooner, not later, because of the matter of urgency involved,” Ryder stressed.
Labour rights, safety and health at work and responsible business conduct are at the core of the “Staying Engaged – A Sustainability Compact with Bangladesh”.
ILO supportThe ILO was supporting Bangladesh’s labour law reform process before the Rana Plaza building collapse occurred – promoting the need for a national policy on occupational safety and health, strengthening unions and labour rights.
Soon after the tragedy, the Organization sent a mission to Bangladesh. Building upon a national tripartite plan of action, the mission issued a joint statement from the government and its social partners. The plan of action and joint statement aim to strengthen Bangladesh’s labour inspectorate and improve building safety assessments and occupational safety and health measures.
In addition, ILO technical assistance to the Bangladeshi garment sector has significantly increased since April.
The Organization also acts as a neutral chair and facilitator to a private sector industry accord on building and fire safety between two global unions and retailers that has, to date, been signed by around 70 global brands.
Ryder stressed the importance of bringing these initiatives together into a “single coherent endeavour,” in order to avoid a “fragmentation of efforts”. The joint statement acknowledged the importance of ILO technical assistance and committed to a follow-up meeting in 2014 to review progress.